Turnbull open to arguments on media ownership rules
TEN and Nine back calls to relax Reach Rules and the govt is "sympathetic" to their case.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given his strongest indication so far that he may act on current media rules, which prevent cross-ownership of newspapers, radio and television stations in the same city.
It follows media CEOs lobbying him on Friday.
“The view is put to me by many people in the industry and (it) is very cogent. Why in an age where the internet has become the super platform … why do we need platforms-specific ownership rules dealing with newspapers, radio and television?” he told SKY News’s Australian Agenda.
“The arrival of the internet and the additional diversity and avenues for competition that it brings, really says we should have less regulation and more freedom.
“The previous government’s approach to the media was to beat up those media outlets that disagreed with it and try and favour those that gave it some support. The fact is I am not the minister for right-wing communications or pro-Liberal communications. (Mr) Conroy thought that he was the minister for supporting pro-Labor communications.”
Current Reach rules prevents Nine, Seven and TEN from merging with regional networks including listed companies Southern Cross, Prime Media Group and WIN Network.
TEN CEO Hamish McLennan said current laws were redundant, Nine Network boss David Gyngell branded them antiquated but Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner has not backed the move, saying all views need to be heard, especially those in regional areas.
In a statement, Tim Worner said: “What we need to be extremely careful about is that this is not the first but sure step to a country where you have to pay to watch the footy or the cricket. Or where we have only one or two dominant sources of news and opinion. Certain ownership combinations could well lead to that situation. We need to make sure this is not about getting ordinary Australians to pay for what we have always had for free in this country. Australians won’t cop that and nor should the government.”
There has been speculation News Corp could buy TEN if the rules were relaxed. News Corp has denied any interest.
“Why is there a 75 per cent reach limitation? Why is there a rule that says today that you can’t own print, television and radio in the same market? You could be fair to say that I am very sympathetic about it,” said Turnbull.